Now that I have been in the AFSC Newark office for over two months, I have started to get a routine and have a better understanding of how the office is run. I have also been able to participate in a number of diverse life-changing experiences including interviewing detainees at the Elizabeth Detention Center, going to immigration court for different types of hearings and attending advocacy meetings. All of these experiences have helped me gain a greater understanding of the immigration legal system, far more than I have learned in three years as an undergrad. I have also been able to practice my Spanish on a semi consistent basis, which is great preparation for my trip to study abroad in Buenos Aires.

Although I am sure that the majority of you were able to follow the event on the news, last Thursday, February 17th, AFSC hosted a Rally and Walk to oppose a new detention center in Essex County. The new detention center, with the capacity to hold up to 2700 detainees, would continue to separate families and put even more immigrants in detention. We first met in front of the Federal Building on Broad St. and were welcomed by TV cameras and reporters all whom were interested in our cause. After some powerful speakers, one being the head of the AFSC office in Newark, Amy Gottlieb, and a few others, we headed out on our way, 150 strong. Seeing that this was my first ever protest, it was an eye-opening experience. We walked through the Ironbound chanting in Spanish and English, chants like , “Obama, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!” or “Education, no detention!” Luckily our route went through a predominantly Hispanic and Brazilian neighborhood, so everyone was outside their shop or home, witnessing the power of the people. Upon arriving at the current Essex County Jail, we chanted for a while, made our presence known, spoke again to a number of reporters, said a group prayer, and finally made our way back home.

Reflecting on the protest, I thought that it was a success. One element of the protest that stuck out to me was the sentiment of pure frustration. The immigrant community and its supporters are frustrated. Why is the idea of a detention center even being brought up? Haven’t there already been enough tears shed, enough families separated, enough lives ruined? Why is this even a question any more? These are questions we ask every day as we head down to the EDC, or see clients that come into the office. Where has the compassion gone? These immigrants are being treated as objects, not human beings. One of AFSC’s slogans is “No Human Being is Illegal,” but that is not something that the government seems to value.

The next battle we face as a community is against new piece of legislation called “Secure Communities.” This program will provide the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the Department of Homeland Security with fingerprinting information from local police and the FBI. Therefore when someone is pulled over by the police, the local police will have their immigration status when they type in their information into their database. This will increase the number of deportations, encourage racial profiling, and separate more families, for something as miniscule as a traffic ticket. Unfortunately, I will not be around these next few months to fight this unfortunate proposal, but I will be back in the summer. Seeing that this will be my last post for a while, I wanted to thank AFSC for this great opportunity.  I have thoroughly enjoyed writing about the progressive things that are being done here at AFSC.

 Hasta el proximo,

   Liam